The UCLA Bruins baseball team (36-7, 15-4 Pac-12) survived nervy eighth and ninth innings last night, holding off one of the best offenses in the nation and hanging on to defeat the Arizona State Sun Devils (32-11, 13-9 Pac-12), by the score of 3-2.
The Bruins, who have now won seven straight games and 15 of their last 16, seek the series win today at 3 pm PT. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks National, Los Angeles, and Arizona.
UCLA starter Ryan Garcia (6-0) had another nice outing, earning the win, throwing seven plus innings, striking out eight, and allowing only two runs. With a 3-1 lead, UCLA Head Coach John Savage might have left Garcia in a bit too long as the junior right hander surrendered a walk and a line drive single to start the eighth inning, putting runners on the corners with no outs. UCLA closer Holden Powell, however, came for a clutch six-out save, although he allowed a sacrifice fly in the eighth to tighten the game at 3-2.
The Bruins were on the scoreboard first as second inning singles by Jack Stronach, Michael Toglia, and an RBI single by Kevin Kendall put UCLA up 1-0. Kendall’s single did not leave the infield and the Bruins got a bit of luck as the hard hit ball took a tough bounce off the chest of the Sun Devil second baseman, allowing Stronach to score on what could have been an inning ending double play.
ASU evened the ledger in the bottom of the fourth inning as ASU designed hitter Lyle Lin, who went 3 for 3 on the night, doubled home Alika Williams, who walked to lead off the inning.
The Bruins took the lead back in the top of the seventh inning when UCLA cashed in a lead-off walk to Kyle Cuellar. Kendall doubled Cuellar over to third base and Noah Cardenas’ infield single off the glove of the Sun Devils’ third baseman scored him, putting the Bruins ahead, 2-1.
Stronach drove in another UCLA run in the eighth inning with a sacrifice fly after Garrett Mitchell started things off with an outstanding drag bunt into no-man’s-land between the pitcher’s mound and first base for a single. Ryan Kreidler bunted Mitchell over to second and a single by Chase Strumpf moved him to third before Stronach’s RBI sacrifice fly.
Mitchell’s run would prove to be the difference as ASU put runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, sending Garcia to the showers. Powell came on to strike out the dangerous Spencer Torkelson, swinging on a filthy slider in the dirt on a 3-2 count. Powell then induced fly ball to center field which scored an ASU run and ended the inning on a ground out to shortstop.
The Sun Devils had a chance in the ninth as Powell started things off with a walk, putting the tying run on first and bringing the winning run to the plate. But the UCLA closer struck out the next two batters looking and ended the game with another strike out, this one swinging.
Each of UCLA’s runs included an infield hit as part of the scoring rally.
UCLA will send junior right hander Jack Ralston (7-0, 2.86 ERA) to the mound today and Arizona State will counter with sophomore right hander Boyd Vander Kooi (4-1, 5.43 ERA). Vander Kooi had a tough outing against the Bruins last year, going just 21⁄3 innings and allowing seven runs on eight hits.
UCLA might need a similar offensive output today as Arizona State’s potent offense is not likely to score only two runs again today.
This is your UCLA Bruins versus Arizona State Sun Devils game two open thread.